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Thirteenth stroke of the clock

Posted by Pamela on April 10, 2008 at 00:34:

In Reply to: Thirteenth stroke of the clock posted by Victoria S Dennis on April 09, 2008 at 17:38:

: : : Dear Forum Members,
: : : It is requested to kindly furnish the exact meaning of phrase/saying/ideom - "Thirteenth stroke of the clock".

: : I think to give an exact meaning would require some context. "Stroke of the clock" refers to the bell/chime being struck on the hour, i.e. a clock rings a bell once for each hour of the time. One ring = 1 o'clock, two rings = 2 o'clock, etc. Traditional clocks only mark 12 hours (after 12 rings, the next hour would have one ring), so the thirteenth stroke of the clock is when the clock announces an impossible time.

: One sense in which the phrase is regularly used was coined, I believe, by A P Herbert, the humorous writer on British legal matters. He compared a remark by a witness in a court case to "the thirteenth stroke of a crazy clock" - the remark was not merely unbelievable in itself, but proved the witness himself to be so completely unreliable that it discredited everything he had previously said. (VSD)

Another sense in which it has been used is the "magical" sense. So, in the children's book "Tom's Midnight Garden" (Philippa Pearce, 1958), the young boy enters the magic garden when the clock strikes 13 (an impossible and therefore magical time). While confirming my memory on that, I also found a mystery/suspense novel by Herbert Brean "The Clock Strikes 13" . And, probably because 13 is an unlucky number, there are also the horror uses - a band called "The Demons" has a song called "Clock strikes 13" and Emily the Strange (a character favoured by young goth girls) has a clock with a 13 instead of a 12. I should also mention, that in these uses "13 o'clock" is the impossible time which follows on from 12 midnight (also an unlucky time), not 13 o'clock in the sunny afternoon. Pamela